CINCINNATI – Xavier held onto its No. 5 ranking in the polls Monday after a topsy-turvy week that began with a thrilling victory over the No. 1-rated team and ended with a frustrating loss to a team on the bubble.
But the Musketeers must be kicking themselves after losing their grasp on a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.
The fact that the Musketeers didn't lose any ground in the polls may indicate that voters were more impressed by their home win over Villanova than dubious about their road loss at Seton Hall. Or, it may reflect the fact that four of the Top 5 and four of the Second 5 lost last week.
Kansas jumped to No. 1 in both polls. In the Associated Press sportswriters poll, Michigan State took over No. 2 followed by Villanova. In the coaches poll, Villanova is No. 2 and Michigan State is No. 3. Virginia is fourth in both polls.
Kansas got all but three first-place votes in both polls. Xavier got none.
The Musketeers can take some consolation in the polls, but it will take awhile to get over the opportunity lost in Sunday's 90-81 pounding at Seton Hall. Four days after climbing into college basketball's top tier, Xavier senior James Farr said the Musketeers had a major letdown.
"Of course there was," Farr said. "After you beat the No. 1 team in the country, you go to a Seton Hall game where you're predicted to win. You want to win, but Seton Hall is a very good team, so the credit goes to them. They've got some very good guys over there. We didn't do our part tonight. It was visible."
As a result, Xavier (25-4, 13-4 Big East) slipped from its lofty ranks in the RPI indexes and bracket predictions.
The NCAA's own Ratings Percentage Index dropped the Musketeers from third (No. 1 seed territory) to fifth (No. 2 seed territory). Kansas and Villanova stayed 1-2, Virginia jumped from sixth to third, and Oregon remained No. 4.
Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com dropped the Musketeers from a 1 seed (second overall) to a 2 seed in his bracket, replacing Xavier with Michigan State.
ESPN'S Joe Lunardi had just moved Xavier into a No. 1 seed Saturday, putting the Musketeers in Oklahoma's spot after the Sooners lost to Texas. Late Sunday, he dropped Xavier to a 2 again.
Not that a 2 is anything to be disappointed about. Back in November, if you had told coach Chris Mack or any Xavier fan they could skip the season and go into the tournament as a 2, who would have said no?
Sunday's loss could leave a scar on Xavier that's still showing when the NCAA Selection Committee meets March 13, but ESPN's Dana O'Neil makes a case that it shouldn't.
In the best-case scenario, Xavier could still grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA field by winning the Big East tournament. But to do that, they probably would have to beat Villanova again. That assumes the Musketeers won't lose their final regular-season game Saturday at home against Creighton (18-11, 9-7). The Blue Jays won their meeting at Omaha, 70-56, on Feb. 9.
Villanova and Xavier will be the 1-2 seeds at Madison Square Garden in New York starting March 9.
As for UC (21-8), Palm and Lunardi both have them in "The Last Four In," meaning they have no wiggle room to make the 68-team field. The Bearcats are No. 50 in NCAA RPI. They finish the regular season with two tough games this week: at Houston (21-8) on Thursday and home against No. 24 SMU (24-4) on Sunday.
The AAC tournament is March 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.